There was a time when Music of the Baroque used to be the only rooster in the coup. They were pioneers in presenting full scale concerts of Monteverdi operas, rare Handel oratorios, and passions/masses of the High Baroque. The retirement of MOB’s Executive Director Karen Fishman after performances of their season finale The Day of Judgement leaves the Editor of Vocal Arts Chicago to wonder what will be their place among the modern landscape of vocal-centric performing organizations?
Competition on the Earlier music front is the venerable Newberry Consort, which is getting ever-more savvy in programming, marketing, and in ushering in the next generation of stylistically versatile musicians – (baroque cellist and gambist Anna Steinhoff, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, guitarist and luteninst Brandon J. Acker, soprano and lutenist Salomé Sandoval McNutt among many others have been featured). Haymarket Opera Company has quickly become the local standard for historically-informed 17th and early 18th century opera with meticulous detail lavished on their costumes, set pieces and props, paralleled only by their musical integrity. Now that HOC is producing an annual oratorio and farms out their orchestra to collaborators like Chicago Opera Theater and Chicago Chorale, their brand is at the forefront for “h.i.p.” baroque vocal performances in the city. The market also now includes Third Coast Baroque and chamber choirs like Bella Voce partnering with period bands Rook and Callipygian Players to cover repertoire that inappropriate for an opera company or large choruses – monody, concerted madrigals and motets, cantatas, etc.
MOB’s advantage continues to be Jane Glover who was secured as Music Director under the leadership of Karen Fishman. Glover, herself a pioneer and scholar, has created indelible memories for Chicago audiences, particularly in the music of Mozart and Bach. The High Baroque and the Classical periods seem to be where MOB has staked its territory. One of the best performances of 2017 so far, has been Mozart’s Mass in C Minor which requires a double chorus, operatic soloists, and a conductor who can tease out baroque rhetoric from a modern orchestra. The unqualified success of the C Minor Mass should herald a similar triumph for the Telemann oratorio which boasts Glover on the podium with excellent soloists Ying Fang, Krisztina Szabó, Thomas Cooley, and Roderick Williams.
The critical acclaim for Chicago Fringe Opera’s youthful and energetic production of William Bolcom's Lucrezia has been merited, but in the Editor’s opinion, has failed to highlight how wonderful tenor Tobias Wright is in the role of Lorenzo. Wright’s voice is both sweet and penetrating in a black box theater that is not generous for the unamplified singer. Hearing him sing the comic-romantic lover immediately brings to mind parts like Nemorino and Almaviva. The last chance to hear the fine cast of Lucrezia is Saturday.
Finally, Vocal Arts Chicago does not want to get into the habit of recommending student recitals, but nevertheless, enthusiastically endorses one taking place this Sunday afternoon. Soprano Megan Elizabeth Cook was a stand-out in DePaul's Die Feldermaus last year and has been one of the regular muses of VOX 3 Collective whenever there is a need for dramatic soprano with a glamorous tone. Her certificate requirement recital is a great opportunity to experience this awe-inspiring talent for free, assuming that we will all be paying one day to hear her at international-level opera houses. Cook and pianist Kit Bridges will present Britten’s On this Island, Turina’s Poema en forma de canciones, and songs by Rimsky-Korsakov and Marx at the DePaul University Concert Hall in Lincoln Park at 3pm.